CHICAGO — The City Council is once again weighing a ban on plastic grocery bags.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) has proposed a ban on all plastic grocery bags, and it goes before the Committee on Health & Environmental Protection on Tuesday.
The proposed ban says in no uncertain terms that "no store shall provide to any customer a plastic carryout bag" and that stores must provide reusable bags instead, although they may charge for them. Fines of $150-$250 for distributing the bags and $50-$150 for failing to distribute reusable bags would be assessed.
The ordinance cites how the plastic bags, common at grocery stores, do not biodegrade and use more than 12 million barrels of oil to produce each year worldwide.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has not taken a position on the proposal. It is opposed by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
Tanya Triche, vice president and general counsel of the merchants group, called the ban "a tax on retailers," since paper bags cost three times as much as plastic ones.
Aldermen considered a ban six years ago, but instead passed a measure calling for all merchants distributing plastic bags to set up recycling programs. Moreno has been working on a stronger ordinance for two years.
Triche cited city figures showing that recycling gathered 1 million pounds of plastic bags in 2009 and 1.2 million pounds in 2010, but that figure declined to 750,000 pounds in 2012, the last year available. She attributed the decline to shoppers requesting paper bags and using their own reusable bags.
Tuesday's committee meeting is expected to be an informational hearing and is not expected to produce a vote ahead of the next Council meeting on June 26.
"This is going to be an opportunity for both sides to put the information out there," Triche said.
The ordinance is backed by co-sponsors who are members of both the Progressive Reform Caucus — Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2nd), John Arena (45th) and Ameya Pawar (47th) — and the Paul Douglas Alliance — Moreno, Pawar and Ald. James Cappleman (46th) — as well as Ald. Danny Solis (25th).